Anime tragedies and Jupiter’s moons

I wanted to write about two quick hits from this weekend’s gaming explorations:

The first is Tragedy Looper, the game I mentioned in my SWA Game-a-thon write up. Initial impressions on this one are… a bit mixed.

Tragedies are just waiting to unfold. But where, and to who?

The game boils down to a puzzle where the time traveling players try to suss out what role each character has, and what scenario the opposing mastermind has set up. There are four variables at play that the mastermind or players tweak on each day (turn) of a particular loop. These are panic, goodwill, intrigue, and the physical location of the cards. So if for example the police officer has 3 panic, and is in the city, on the third day a certain event will happen.

It all felt very mechanical, and not terribly dramatic. Perhaps this was just because our mastermind for this session didn’t really tell a story using these different elements, but this felt like a case of seeing the wizard behind the screen and not feeling terribly invested in how things played out.

It was also repetitive. To be fair, that’s inherent to a game whose structure is built on going through the same “loop” multiple times to solve the puzzle. But is frustrating to ALMOST solve the scenario, only to have the tragedy occur and have to repeat 90% of your previous actions with one small tweak. I suppose I know just a little bit more about how Bill Murray’s character felt in Groundhog Day.

Still, there was a seed of something amazing here, and perhaps with the right group and a little bit more drama and roleplaying, this could be a great experience. Since we are all relatively new, we were playing the introductory scenario, which was a bit dry. This may be a game where practice makes perfect, but I am unable to tell whether it’s worth that commitment.

The other game I wanted to discuss is called Moons. It combines two of my favorite things, astronomy and trick-taking games (like Hearts or Spades). There are four suits, based on the four gas giants in our solar system: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Each rank of card is represented by one of the many moons of that particular planet, including uber-nerdy flavor text about that moon. The basic gist of the game is to try to win tricks with the highest card in order to take planet tokens that are worth points at the end of the game. The wrinkle comes in that playing the lowest off-suit card can also win you tokens. Classical trick taking gambits are on full display here, and knowing when to lead, how to draw out cards from other players and when to relinquish control are all critical to success.

Never lead with Uranus…

Still, it’s hard to improve on the classics like Hearts. The art and theme go a long way, but we’ll see if has the staying power once the new coat of paint wears off.

It’s always fun to discover new games, I am looking forward to checking a few ones out this coming weekend and will definitely share them here if they make the cut!

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